Hot, Hot, Hot! The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course hosted NASCAR's third tier for the first annual O'Reilly Auto Parts 150. NASCAR's Xfinity Series hosted the annual visit to the Buckeye State for the last decade or so, but schedule changes this year brought trucks in town to play.
Some of the key themes heading into the event included the following.
A home-return for ThorSport Racing, which claims Sandusky, Ohio their stomping grounds.
Summer temperatures increasing in the midwest. Despite lots of rain through the week, race day was to be dry.
Pit Road located on a hill, those in second half of field pitting on a banking.
Lots of fans and families were in the pits prior to the event. Children with their father racers were seen smiling. Carson Hocevar even brought his grandparents for the famed road course visit. Sponsors such as Safelite and O'Reilly had activation on track,
and the Fox Sports team was prepped talking to drivers preparing for the event.
I had the opportunity to speak with driving veteran turned superstar car owner Justin Marks prior to the event, who was coming somewhat out of retirement. He was holding his daughter Olivia and noticeably excited for his one-off.
I asked Marks about the event possibly being his final start. "It was decided about four weeks ago, [to return to the wheel], I'm really not sure if this is my last one. Maybe there will be more, maybe not. It wasn't something I had been planning on for too long." Marks' truck was also seen with a tributing United States Marine Corps icon, which he said was a decision from Niece Motorsports.
Another conversation with Ty Majeski, put the young Wisconsin driver on the spot, I asked him about his recent visit to NHRA's Norwalk event. He expressed that he loved the straight line racing, but wasn't sure if the advanced NASCAR schedule demands would allow him to spend more time with them anytime soon.
Fans were graced with an epic flyover, continuing patriotic tradition after Independence Day weekend days ago, as an enormous C-17 jet flew over housed out of Port Rickenbacker Air Force Base.
The green flag flew and Parker Kligerman showed to be quickest early on, taking the lead on the fourth lap. He won the first stage leading every lap thereafter.
Throughout the first stage, the #17 DGR Ford driven by Tanner Gray had lots of engine concerns. Racing Refresh was in the pits and observed as the F-150 rattled through the whining death of a cylinder in the motor.
They took several pit stops in their attempt to repair the damaged truck, but it never did return to full speed. The team did not lose as much track position as would normally be the case, as the 2.28 mile lengthy road course had two cautions for stopped vehicles on the track during the first stage.
The second stage was a two man battle between the same two men who pushed to the victory back in Daytona. Parker Kligerman's Chevrolet led every lap until the final one, when two time winner Zane Smith passed him for the lead and claimed the second points paying stage. No cautions occurred in the entire second stage.
The two continued to battle closely, never having more than a one or two second lead over the other in the final stint. Parker Kligerman's #75 Chevrolet led the majority of the event, including 20 of the final 25 laps.
Kligerman hung on to win the event in a chassis that was originally built in 2015 for Cole Custer and JR Motorsports. In his victory celebration Kligerman was all smiles. He did a burnout and cheered, spiking the checkered flag in the yard and walking over to his diverse crew of independent crewmen. He approached his crew chief, gestured for a peaceful fist bump, and emotionally said 'Thank you.'
He walked away from his team to park his car in victory lane, where he claimed an extra $50,000 from Camping World as part of the 'Triple Truck Challenge'. Fans could be heard screaming from the pits during both celebrations. Some think of Kligerman as an anaylst on TV, others a race car driver. But myself, I see him as a person that is driven to succeed no matter what he does. I see him, as Simply, Parker.